a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Steelworkers Sierra Club

Posted by Thomas Nephew on June 8th, 2006

From the Sierra Club press release:

On Wednesday, June 7th, the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest grassroots’ environmental organization, and the United Steelworkers (USW), North America’s largest private sector manufacturing union, will announce the formation of a historic strategic alliance. […]

The Alliance will promote a new vision for American public policy–creating jobs by promoting smart energy solutions to global warming; reducing the risks from toxic chemicals in the workplace and the community; and building a responsible trade policy for America. This unprecedented alliance will chart a new direction for the nation’s labor and environmental movements, bringing together almost 2 million members around a shared vision of the future.

(Via Climate Crisis Coalition – Daily News.) The “Blue/Green Alliance” is described in a bit more detail in a second press release:

“Good jobs and a clean environment are important to American workers–we cannot have one without the other, said Leo Gerard, International President of USW. “In fact, secure 21st century jobs are those that will help solve the problem of global warming with energy efficiency and renewable energy.” […]

The USW and the Sierra Club have worked jointly on issues of mutual concern for many years, including the Clean Air Act, trade reform, and corporate responsibility. Currently, the two organizations have joint projects in fifteen states. The new Alliance will build on these existing programs and focus initially on three key issues-global warming and clean energy, fair trade, and reducing toxics. The work will begin in four states-Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Ohio, and Washington with plans to expand into at least 10 more states in the next two years.

As the Duluth News Tribune’s Lee Bloomquist reports, the partnership extends a model Minnesota collaboration between regional branches of the two organizations, which worked together on the possible discharge of water from a Minntac Mine taconite tailings basin.

“It’s not that different than what’s already been going on,” said Bob Bratulich, United Steelworkers District 11 director. “I see this event as just a formalization of the alliance. We’re just going to be working together on projects that we have common interest in.” […]

“We have a lot of the same goals and issues,” said Jerry Fallos, a Steelworkers associate member coordinator in Eveleth. “The Sierra Club believes in renewable energy, not just for the economics, but for the environment, and so do we.”

It’s encouraging to see alliances like this one work against the assumption that fighting pollution and carbon dioxide emissions must threaten jobs and economic growth. If the Steelworkers-Sierra Club alliance does nothing but blunt the political appeal of making that charge at election time, it will have been a worthwhile initiative.

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